On a whim…

Chaotic, esoteric, marginally coherent, stuff about life.

Posts Tagged ‘humor

Boredom Is Not a Birth Defect… It Could Be Congenital, Though…

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Not too long ago I listened to an interview with James Taylor  and he attributed his creativity to boredom. I guess I haven’t been bored enough for a while now? Today to add a new post to my blog I am leaning on the extraordinary creativity of a friend whose effort to invite a date to the school prom suggests that he is must suffer from congenital boredom (if Mr. Taylor is correct).  PLEASE watch this: 

Written by David Wilkerson

13 February 2013 at 9:18 pm

Posted in grace, hope, humor, life

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To Die (to Write), to Sleep, to Sleep Perchance to Dream…

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There is some aspect of death in the act of writing that rises in the instant of losing oneself in narrative. We writers are permitted to dream. But what dreams indeed may come? I am told that for some, writing is like a narcotic. The dictum, “You are a writer if you are compelled to write,” has been hammered into me for decades. Real writers are addicted to their narratives?!

Not me. I have always wanted to write and write well. But, in a perverse self destructive effort to prove I am not addicted, ergo not a writer I seek refuge in the mundane. How I love the distraction of a clogged toilet and cherish the joy of a late night return to the house and finding doggy hors d’oeuvres scattered from den door to garbage can.

I used to write a weekly newsletter column. One that I pompously titled “In the First Place”. Every day would start with random scribbles with the idea that I would build momentum as the deadline approached. Starting with some superfluous worlds and adding more of the same I would finally have whole paragraphs of noise. These I gleefully discarded knowing that NO ONE wanted to read my blathering nonsense. Far better that I tighten screws on a door handle, dust a window sill, and repeatedly check whether the wadded paper in the bin had enough relatives to constitute a zoning violation so I could toss out the whole lot.

But who am I kidding? What else pulls me to a keyboard late at night or forces a pen and church bulletin into my hands during prayers? What other form of insanity compels me claw through an in-flight magazine searching for a clear margin on which to scribble random thoughts and waking dreams.

It is a sad thing to believe a writer is always a Jack Kerouac, drawn by the call of a great idea to sit for hours or days birthing an idea in a single gushing stream of consciousness.  There are times when I wish I could not sleep. Times when I wish my own compulsion to write was easier for me.

In my Walter Mitty life as a writer, I see myself awakened from a dream filled sleep. Flailing, groping for a lighted pen and note paper (real writers have cool tools) I record passages of sublime prose. The real me is awakened by the familiar urge of a full bladder. I stumble down the hall and I reach the toilet to find it is clogged… again. In my groggy state the only narrative is a rich and unrecorded internal discourse regarding how gross is the state of the toilet.

When it comes to writing there’s no easy way out for me. I am compelled to tell the stories in which I find, rather than lose, myself. To find myself in a narrative flow I have to plunge into a reality filled with loose door knobs, clogged toilets, and raucous hounds that feel ever so free to help themselves to the dainty treats in the garbage can. To be and to write in the world filled with be-ing, or not to be is the question indeed.

Written by David Wilkerson

16 August 2012 at 10:56 pm

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

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A wooden boat with fair curves.

Wooden Boat magazine.

Once, seduced by a picture in a magazine, I built a boat. I was omniscient, a teenager, and I knew I could build “a salty little pram small enough for a ten year old to handle.” I didn’t have a clue about boat design, construction, or the basics of sailing. But heck, neither did Noah! Furthermore, I was a hardened veteran of Mr. Henderson’s woodworking class. In my mind, when it came to ‘making things’, I was a natural.

I had a portfolio of success: a doll sized cradle using nothing but a hand saw, brace and bit, and sweat (and I thought the lopsidedness lent it more credibility as a ‘hand crafted’ treasure), a mahogany three tier table with cabriole legs straight out of the pages of Popular Woodworking with a distinct Italian flair (it leaned a bit), a dog house (that lacked charm) and I built it with a hack saw even after lopping of the knuckle of one thumb. I was persistent! Couldn’t I fell the timber, chew off the bark with my bare teeth , wrestle iron ore from a nearby mountain, and forge nails in my parent’s central heating system…  ?

I was a frugal teen (meaning, I had limited funds earned by mowing lawns) so I sought out adequate lumber for the project. What’s wrong with wood gleaned from old pallets? Why not use cheap plywood than the one called for even if its been stamped with the word “INTERIOR”?

I fought with plywood and warped pine skewering them together with pound after pound of brass screws. (Every dollar I saved on lumber was lost in the pounds upon pounds of brass screws.)

Cover from an old Popluar Mechanics magazine featuring a DIY boat called "Tea Cup"

Popular Mechanics online archive at Google Books

Speaking of brass screws, have you ever held a 1 gross box of them? Astonishing! Ultimately the ‘my lady’, as I liked to call the boat, was a beast whose weight was overwhelming. Unlike some big boned people I know, this clunky dingy lacked grace.  The only thing salty about that boat were the gallons of sweat that soaked into her timbers.

I wish I knew what it was that made me persist with the effort to build the boat. Probably the same thing that made me insist to my fourth grade teacher that my pet duck really really ate my home work. Or, more likely, I was still looking at the picture I imagined it to be and not the able to see it for what it was. So I held on to the vision of it as a creature only needing water to transform it, mermaid like, into an elegant creature.

Some months after I began to build the ark, I persuaded Charles, my skeptical neighbor, to help me launch it. We hauled the glorified transoceanic-shipping-crate on top of  his 1966 Carmen Ghia Coupe. It only goes to show how marvelously engineered those cars were; Figuring the boat weighed close to three hundred pounds the roof of the glorified bug did show a single bruise! Of course I  have no idea why shortly afterward he had to have his clutch replaced.

Driving north of Atlanta, we found a thankfully deserted Corps of Engineers boat launch on Lake Lanier. Marvelous to my eyes were the white caps breaking all across the lake. It was as if the forces of nature wished me a bon voyage worthy of Joshua Slocum.

Just in case you don’t know, Slocum was an early 20th adventurer and sailor who is apparently the first person to sail solo around the world.

In any case, I shoved off. Charles remained on shore to, as he put it, take pictures of me in the boat. More likely he knew better than to board the thing with me having witnessed me stuffing rags into several conspicuous leaks around the keel.   I unfurled the sail, hauled in the sheet (that’s a rope for you land lubbers), and pointed the bow down wind.

Away I went… really away and fast. I was at least 1/4 mile from the launch point when I thought I should ‘come about’ and ‘wear ship’ (I learned the terms from the tales of C.S. Forrester about “Horatio Hornblower” and had no clue that ‘wear ship’ was applied to square rigged ships. What I did know is that I had to turn around and try to work my way back toward shore. Today I would say I needed to come about and make a series of tacks to windward. Back then I think, as I tried to just this, all capacity for speech ceased, froze, and sentient thought yielded to one terrifying certainty, this boat would never ‘tack’. It was more like a paper cup. Albeit a very heavy cup. The wind remorselessly tossed us across the lake.

Lanier is a large artificial reservoir. Given the severity of the wind and the increasing roughness of the water it was doubtful that the boat, or I, would survive long enough to make it all the way across.

While I was doing a remarkable job of looking and acting like a panic stricken fool I saw that a small island (a pile of rock with a few pines) might actually be reachable. I prayed with great devotion unrivaled by any but the most desperate mariners. I also promised that I would never ever again do whatever it was that my teenage mind thought would please the Almighty and then, for good measure, tossed up the idea that I would even go so far as to do the Almighty whatever favor might be pleasing.

More grateful than Robinson Crusoe and luckier than Joshua Slocum (he and his boat were lost at sea and never seen again) I made it to the island. From there I dragged the boat around to a point near the opposite shore from which I had started. The water being shallow, the sail and mast having a bit earlier been ripped from the boat by the wind (and a little help from me), I waded across and summarily hauled the ‘boat’ home.

Seduction is a dangerous thing. It can delude one into thinking something that never was, never will be, or simply can’t be is there for the taking. The sad thing is that in my case the seduction was self imposed and that, probably, is the worst kind of all. I learned a lesson that day. Always, always be sure to use better wood.

Written by David Wilkerson

1 August 2012 at 8:48 pm

Pagerism

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In high school I wrote a poem. “Sticking feet out the window; tickled by the rain. ”
Teacher said it wasn’t mine because it was good.

Old guy screaming!

Borrowed from Laurel Connections

That would have been a good time to learn to cuss. I didn’t and that’s too bad ’cause the poem was good and it was mine.

Wish I still had that poem. Guess I need to resume digging around in the attic (metaphorically) and find some more, maybe better?

We’ll see. Stick with me ’cause I am going somewhere. Maybe not today, or even tomorrow. But there’s piles of stuff and you might want to read more of it.

But not tonight. It’s late, I am tired, and I have been reading which is a good thing for a writer to do, don’t you think?

 

 

Written by David Wilkerson

18 March 2012 at 9:57 pm

Posted in Writing

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Chicken… really?

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OK, now for something a little different. Well, ok, a lot different. My favorite niece has asked me, “Should I keep chickens?” Actually, she said that the new home she is buying in an upscale community has a coop with tenants. She wants to know if keeping them is “over her head?”  You bet! But there’s more to it than that. I already have a vision of the scene and I cherish the opportunity for her to bring that dream to reality. Here’s what I have told her so far.Chicken for dinner?

According to her there are a dozen chickens so in many ways, 12 are no worse than having two or three in terms of effort. It’s more a question of the ‘net effect’. For example she can expect to average around 6 eggs per day if they are laying well.  In fact, I think chicken breeds lay one egg about every 27 hours.  (I am sure my daughter Maribeth will correct me). Of greater significance than eggs is ‘poop’.  Oh boy!  Years ago I kept two dozen Rhode Island Reds. They were great layers (and poopers).

I had converted an old tin utility shed into their coop and kept a bed of sawdust on the floor to reduce the effort to collect poop, er, droppings. The shed was WAY back on the edge of the property (nearly 100 yards from the house). Soon I found that the, ahem, droppings were heavy; Shoveling them out was a bigger chore than I expected.  (By the way, is cleaning out a coop like cleaning out a stall? If so, was I mucking the coop? That sounds far more disgusting!  Anyway, I digress from my primary digression… ) It was too much work to haul the manure from the coop to the garden. Besides, in my ignorance, I thought it was too ‘fresh’ and would burn my precious plants. I needed a simple solution and I found one.

I just piled up the waste near the path that led from the house to the coop. Quite a pile, or piles, they turned out to be. The blended wood shavings (sawdust) and fresh manure seemed made for each other and from a distance it looked like I had a lovely stone wall lining the path down to the coop. My late wife, Beth, did not find the “stone wall” charming from any distance but I, as usual, had a vision that was not firmly rooted in reality. I forged ahead with my birds; I was a keeper of poultry, a rooster rancher, a hen hustler, a . . . well you get the point. I was proud of my pioneering spirit and self sufficiency.

One day some old friends not seen in years came to visit. Jim and his wife, Tina Cunningham, were from a neighboring state and they adored my late wife while graciously tolerating me. The afternoon was filled with conversation devoted to catching up and narrowing the gap of years that separated us. Meanwhile I, absorbed in my new found self sufficiency, was eager to ‘move on’ and invite them on a tour of my chicken chalet. I waited as long as I thought I could stand it and finally prevailed on them to follow me across the lawn, to a muddy path lined by my ‘charming’ stones to the the coop.

Jim had on a pair of Allen-Edmonds loafers. Those fine shoes with their leather soles didn’t belong on the muddy path. So I pointed to the margin where the grass, a bit long, offered the assurance of a drier trek. Instead, Jim, spry for a man in his seventh decade, leapt instead to the nearest stone… and thrust his right foot clear through.

Poor Jim, clearly unsettled by the nature of my rocks, felt his understanding of the material universe unraveling. Maybe, he reasoned in a nano second, his right foot was already passing through the earth’s mantle and descending toward the core. Indeed, his dexterity on one foot was beautiful as he elegantly leapt again… to another stone with his left foot.

Seemingly, he had acquired a ghost like capacity to pass through solid granite; He leapt again, and again. Each foot preceded the next, one stone at a time, until he transited the entire length of the adjacent path. Gasping for breath while grasping for an explanation he struggled to speak; How, what, who… why, Jim sputtered without resolution, without explanation… ever.

I never heard from Jim again after that day. I remember little of the aftermath other than it was filled with finding spare socks, clearing ‘granite manure’ from his sad shoes. I have vague memories of the fierce looks from Beth in response to my belated apologies and clumsy attempts to suggest she find some humor in the moment.

Since then I have often wondered how Jim, or anyone, from the coastal plain of Georgia or the sandy flatland of Florida could imagine a path lined by a New England stone fence could find its way to the marshy verge of my yard? One thing I have never forgotten is this: if you keep chickens you better plan for the prodigious production of poultry poop.

Yes indeed, dear niece, chickens need food, water, extra light in winter, and occasionally need to be treated for minor things.  But of all the things you consider consider this: You may enjoy eggs benedict for breakfast. Perhaps you will find an Emeril Lagasse recipe for a quiche, but for poop, well for that you need a plan all your own.

Written by David Wilkerson

14 March 2012 at 5:38 pm

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